If you’re like the majority of small businesses now using sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn to help build relationships and reach new customers, you know that sometimes social media marketing isn’t as easy as it looks.
Generating meaningful results from these sites takes a lot more than just signing up, logging on, and posting updates. It takes time, patience, and a dedication to long-term success.
When you sign up for these sites, you’re making a commitment to your customers but, without a plan that’s built to last it can be tough to fulfill your part of the bargain.
“Social media has completely changed the way businesses think about marketing,” explains Shelley Roth, President of Springboard Social Media. “It’s no longer about selling. The magic word now is engagement.”
As president of Springboard Social Media and a Constant Contact Solution Provider, Shelley has helped hundreds of businesses both large and small achieve meaningful results through social media marketing. This week, I had the chance to speak with Shelley about how small businesses can achieve success on social media.
Here are four simple strategies you can put into action:
1. Give to grow
“Making sure you’re giving to grow is about providing value to the people who engage with you on social media,” explains Shelley. “It’s a philosophy that most people already know, which applies incredibly well to social media.”
Providing value to your audience on social media is about providing an experience that your customers will enjoy, remember, and want to tell their network about. It’s about giving your audience something more than just the same promotional content that many brands offer on social media and other online marketing platforms.
For some small business, something of value is a piece of educational content like a white paper, video, or how-to article on a blog. For others, it may be an exclusive offer or a special discount that’s just for fans.
Whatever you decide, make sure that you’re giving fans and followers an experience they will thank you for.
2. Engage your audience
“The next hurdle businesses face is figuring out a way to actually engage their audience,” explains Shelley. “Without that engagement, it’s difficult to be seen.”
The benefits of generating engagement from your audience on social media should not be overlooked.
For starters, social engagement will help strengthen relationships with some of your very best customers. These are the people who already “Like” or “Follow” you on these networks who have taken the time to comment, like or share your posts. By starting a conversation with these social connections, you’ll be able to learn more about the people who shop in your store while also developing a level of familiarity that can help drive referrals and repeat business.
Engagement is also crucial when it comes to getting your content in front of the people who need it the most. On sites like Facebook for example, the level of engagement a person has with a particular Facebook Page can impact the updates from that Page that show up in their newsfeed.
If fans aren’t commenting, liking, or sharing your posts, their exposure to your content could start to decrease. This could have a major impact on your long-term social media success.
Here are a few things you can do to boost social engagement:
- Listen up! If you aren’t monitoring your social activity, you could be missing valuable opportunities to engage your audience.
- Create engaging content. Don’t forget, you need to give to grow. Here are a few places you can look for great content ideas.
- Use rich media. Photos, videos, and other types of rich media can drive big-time engagement on every social network.
3. Be present where you can be, be active where you need to be
One of the biggest challenges small businesses face when getting started on social media is figuring out where they need to be.
“I always tell clients to go as wide as you can on social media but make sure to go deeper on the social networks that are most important for you,” explains Shelley. “For B2C businesses that may mean investing a majority of their time on Facebook but still having a presence on LinkedIn, for a B2B that could mean putting LinkedIn first but making sure they can still be found on Facebook or Twitter.”
For a majority of small businesses, being active on every social network isn’t realistic. Instead, work hard to establish yourself among the social media audiences you already have. Spend 90% of your time with this primary network and figure out what works for you there.
Then, use the other 10% to investigate another network that may complement your overall strategy. As you continue to grow and get more comfortable on other networks, you’ll be able to extend your reach and invest your time in more places without getting overwhelmed.
4. Take ownership of your contacts
“One of the first questions I ask a client when they want help on social is, ‘Do you have a list of email contacts?’” explains Shelley. “Email should be the foundation. It’s how they’re going to drive the most traffic and best results.”
If you’ve been using social media for your small business, you know that getting your message in front of the right people at the right time isn’t always easy. That’s because on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest you don’t really own your contacts. You’re communicating with your audience on “rented” space and are playing by the terms of the social media provider.
With email however, you have the ability to connect with your audience at the place they go every single day — the email inbox. Because people have opted-in to receive information from your business, you’ll know that every piece of content you send is being delivered.
If you want to achieve long-term social media success, you need to make sure you’re thinking beyond your social channels. Look for opportunities to take ownership of your contacts by encouraging fans and followers to join your email list. As your list grows, you’ll have more opportunities to drive traffic back to your social networks and be better equipped for long-term social media success.
Find a strategy that works for you
Overall, Shelley says that success on social media starts with putting a plan in place.
“When I got started on social media, I just jumped right in without a clear strategy in mind. I quickly learned how important having a strategy can be,” recalls Shelley. “Take your time, do your homework, and know what you want to accomplish before you get started.”
What social media strategies work best for your business? Let us know in the comments below.